Since Demna Gvasalia started his role as creative director for Balenciaga, he’s created statement pieces beloved by bloggers and experienced editors alike. But, like the now ubiquitous off the-shoulder-puffer that inspired a milieu of copycats, most had little to do with the atelier’s couture legacy or were a mere loose interpretation of the house’s mores. But this season, Gvasalia’s off-kilter pragmatism blended with the house’s now 100-year history as the designer drew equal inspiration from seldom seen imagery and iconic silhouettes.
While combing through the house archives, Gvasalia unearthed a handful of behind-the-scenes photographs featuring models demurely posing for the camera, fabric scrunched haphazardly and entirely askew. The show opened with a series of checked tweed, leather, and cheetah velvet jackets cut not to allude to this styling, but to embody it. Angled around the body and buttoned over the shoulder, the result was a series of sharp jutting shoulders and asymmetric drapery that reinvigorated otherwise classic shapes.
Sheer volume ultimately stole the show with oversized knits spilling over pleated floral skirts before giving way to the eclipse of similarly patterned flyaway tent dresses, their length rendering the model shapeless save for the peek of a swirled stocking.
Never one not to repurpose, Gvasalia fastened car mats into both slimming pencil skirts and shirt backs and twisted his Balenciaga Bernie shirts into stilettoes, but his most successful reinterpretation came in his take on couture.
The first in a series of nine dresses, their shape plucked directly from Balenciaga’s 1950s landmark designs, a polka-dotted Josephine sat tight on the bust before cascading down in a wide tulip of fabric. Flounce and feathers followed as voluminous triplicate tiers, babydoll florals, and a full-length ostrich gown delighted showgoers. Pockets riddled the looks with practicality, while the gargantuan Laundromat bags in matching patterns ensured Gvasalia had his say with the iconic shapes. His now signature spandex stocking-boots shot color into monochrome gowns and an ivory embroidered empire waist amphora dress, tangerine orange and electric blue hailing for attention beneath the hems.
While Gvasalia has been twisting and turning Balenciaga into his own with every slanted silhouette, he neither reinvented nor overhauled for the house’s 100th anniversary, but offered a needed modern update. At first, Gvasalia wanted to subvert the designs or alter them, but decided each classic looked best as is. “I realized they had to stay pure, but they needed me in them,” he told BoF. As a result, Gvasalia both played with the designs and paid homage to them. The collection mingled the old and new and was ultimately emblematic of Gvasalia’s brand of mix-and-match cool.